drunk driving arrests roads

Drunken driving have increased on the City of Cape Town roads. Image: drivesouthafrica

‘Law is going to bite’ – Rigorous enforcement of zero-limit drunk driving legislation vows Mbalula

‘It’s going to be zero,’ said Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula of government’s zero-tolerance amendments to drunk driving legislation which comes into force in June.

drunk driving arrests roads

Drunken driving have increased on the City of Cape Town roads. Image: drivesouthafrica

The Transport Minister says the new Aarto traffic offenses legislation that takes effect in June will be accompanied by a new zero-tolerance attitude to drunk driving which has “overwhelming” public support.

The amendments to current drink-driving guidelines were mooted in November 2019, but Fikile Mbalula has confirmed that his department is moving ahead with a 0% legal blood-alcohol limit.

The National Road Traffic Act (NRA) as it stands sanction small limits in blood alcohol levels that allow drivers behind the wheel if they have been drinking and stay within the limits.

The new ‘law is going to bite’

With the new directives, drivers will not be allowed to drink alcohol and drive at all, Mbalula said.

“We are going to be intolerant to drinking and driving. We’re going beyond saying there’s some percentage – it must be zero percent. It’s going to be zero. No alcohol in the blood – and the law is going to bite with regard to that.”

Mblalua added that of the 500,000 or so public comments the transport department received relating to the new Aarto laws, only one queries the 0%, showing overwhelming support for the move.

The news coincided with an announcement by Police Minister Bheki Cele this week, laying bare just how serious an issue South Africa’s drunk driving problem has become.

Cele reported that over 24,000 people were arrested for driving drunk over the festive season, with close to a third of all arrests made over the holiday period.

Demerit system

In addition to the new stricter drunk driving laws, Aarto’s June rollout will also see the introduction of the hotly-debated licence demerit system.

Under the new system, all traffic fines across the country will now carry the same penal values, but not all infringements will carry demerit-points.

About half of the infringements envisaged in schedule 3 of the Aarto regulations carry no demerit points at all, notes Justice Project SA’s Howard Dembovsky told BusinessTech.

“You may incur no more than 12 demerit points without your licence being suspended… On the 13th point, and for every point thereafter, your licence, operator card or permit issued in terms of road transport legislation will be suspended for three months for each point over 12.”

“For example, if you incur 15 demerit points, the suspension period will be nine months.”

The system has not been without criticism, with organisations such as Outa, the AA, JPSA and netizens pointing out several flaws and what they say are hidden clauses.

Mbalula said that despite the criticisms, road users must prepare themselves for the launch in June.

“We’re going live. We take points, we take away your driver’s licence. The president has signed this into law, and now we’re implementing it,” he said.